Monday, April 03, 2006

Living from Death

Death. So final. So absolute. You exist one minute. You don't exist in another. Death is the liquor of life. Death stops you, makes you rethink of where you are going and where you have been. Death simplifies things for you. What you thought were so important now are trivial. Tears shed because of something said are tears wasted for self.

I spoke to Marianne Villanueva. last night at the Bayanihan Center in San Francisco. In the spread of the conversation, she asked, "Where is your mother?" As a reflex, I said "She's dead." I detected discomfort in Marianne's face. I added hastily, "She's been dead a while so I have gotten over it."

To recover, Marianne asked, "And your father?" Strike two. I replied, "He's dead also. It's been twenty years." Marianne replied "Oh."

In the Philippines, death is celebrated. Celebrated not like the New Orleans celebration. Celebration with food and with massive amounts of flowers. The flowers hid the smell of the dead. As embalming technology got better, the flowers stayed as a measure of the dearly departed's value on this earth.

Cancer. Tumors. Of all the diseases, the degenerative diseases emphasize much more than other diseases the regression of an adult into infancy. Before technology managed to balance patients on the slim line of life and death, parents left the world suddenly and unexpectedly. But with better nutrition and vitamin pills, more and more we see our parents become infants before our very eyes.

I was frightened when I saw my father's body be reduced to skeletal proportions. I knew as a teen-ager what was happening. It was the cancer. Or the treatment for the cancer. I wondered whether I would end up the same way. More importantly, I wondered whether or not patients are conscious when they are dying. Are their minds still as sharp? Are they trapped in a veil of fog? I hope it is the latter. Let them have the minds of infants if they are to have the bodies of infants.

In the end, I had to build a philosophical framework to accept my parent's death. One day, I realized that I could slide into the oblivion of despair. I could continuously dream of the things I missed about my parents. I could continue to pine away and wish for their return. Instead, I decided to live. I decided to take what they taught me and use it in my life. I chose to keep them in my heart. Then, they are not dead, or dying or in pain. They are alive, teaching me, counseling me. Making me realize that I have many things to live for.

But death marks your time on this earth. As a child, you hardly ever know anyone who dies. As an adult, it becomes a constant reminder to you. Time is passing. You are on the road to death. What has your life accomplished? What have you done? What is there to accomplish?

So here's to death and dying! May we all accept it when our time comes. May we accept the passing of those close to us. May we give solace to those who are about to leave the mortal coil.

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